Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update for Novmber 2015
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter update for November 2015.
It’s been an exciting month for Albatross Encounter.Species of interest this month have included Campbell albatross, brown skua, grey-faced petrel, sooty shearwater, Antarctic fulmar and Buller’s shearwater. To see what was sighted this month click go our sightings page.
We’ve been super busy operating 61 tours this month and have seen a phenomenal diversity of birds including some rare sightings. The weather has been changeable with wind and snow in the Seaward Kaikoura's, then hot calm sunny days, sure to cause chaos for the albatross.
On one tour, we had strong southerly winds and conditions were not suitable to take Encounter II out, but with the dolphin tour being cancelled, we were very fortunate to be able to use one of our larger vessels. We had a large and very keen birding group from Rockjumper Birding Tours led by Eric Forsyth, who were very eager to get out onto the water and Gary was willing to give it a go. The sea was challenging, but with strong winds, it created the perfect weather to enjoy the energy efficient dynamic soaring technique utilised by the albatross. We only had two requests, the need to see wandering albatross and Hutton’s shearwaters - a request that we can never be sure to guarantee, but will certainly try our hardest to locate these species. We waited a long time for this wish list to be achieved, but enjoyed a huge array of seabirds in the meantime.
After last month’s excitement of the grey-headed albatross, we didn’t think that we would see another rare bird in such a short space of time, until a soft-plumaged petrel soared past the boat. This is a rare sighting for this area, particularly as it was so close to shore and only the fourth sighting for Gary in the 17 years he’s been taking tours on Albatross Encounter and the first sighting for Tracy. Soft-plumaged petrels typically feed over the continental shelf and we never take it for granted with the luxury of the Kaikoura Canyon system right in our backyard.
Species diversity is on the rise this month with intermittent sightings of Buller’s shearwaters, white-chinned petrels and sooty shearwaters. We had the first sighting of a Campbell albatross since December 2014. Almost identical to the black-browed albatross, except with a honey coloured eye, they can be hard to distinguish in flight, but this individual was very obliging landing close to the boat enabling us to obtain a great picture.
Numbers of wandering albatross have decreased, but we’ve seen an influx of royal albatross particularly with the northern royal albatross with the highest number of birds seen on one tour reaching seven birds, another record for Albatross Encounter.
Northern royals are probably the easiest to distinguish with all black wings and a white back, compared to southern royals that will have at least some white on the upper wing and even juvenile birds will have a white leading edge on the upper wing, not present in northern royals. The majority of northern royals seen here are likely to breed in the Chatham Islands with sightings of banded royals from the Otago Peninsula only occurring around once or twice a year.
So, that’s all our news for now.
Till next time.
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